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The Situationist City

Part 1 Project 2013
Jonathan Davies
University of Westminster | UK
Rethinking urban form through a theoretical framework derivéd from the Situationist International political agenda.

‘We are bored in the city, there is no Temple of the Sun. Between the legs of women walking by, the dadaists imagined a monkey wrench and the surrealists a crystal cup. That’s lost, we really have to strain to discover mysteries.’
Ivan Chtcheglov

The Situationists explored city form as collated urban experiences, proposing, after Lefebvre, architecture of events or situations - momentary ambiances created by everyday life. This diverted from purely objective architectural thought and instead focused on a non-instrumental notion of occupation and inhabitation. The ‘situation’ superseded the concept of ‘use’. A new type of architecture was conceived, concerned with the nature of the event itself and resultant opposition, the dialogue with its context. This birthed a different urbanism by which the city could be transformed and territorially claimed, not physically reconstructed but cognitively reformed by a collective alternative mindset.

This project reintroduces the ‘object’ to Situationist thinking and attempts to create alternative form through synthesis with the city. That is a physical urbanism but still unconcerned with ‘use’. An anti-city made of ruins or monuments (typologies unconnected with utilitarianism).
Physical intervention by means of a built vacant strip welcomes situations to occupy. These are captured and illuminated. By constructing emptiness the resultant physical architecture (the residue of events) can take object form within that space. These built forms react with exiting fabric and each other, spawning new situations.

The project outlines a language of ‘landscape’ and ‘frame’ within which all alternative urban forms find their derivation. Both are empty and foster inhabitation and circulation through ‘the derivé’. This gives the context for the creation and functioning of ‘the strip’. Prototype structures are proposed thereafter, symbols of derived form. The fictional ‘No-Such Party Headquarters’ and ‘The Situationist Laboratory’ where situations are gathered and mixed to create ‘changeable decors’.

In this alternative city all buildings become landscape. The visitor becomes a Baudelairean flâneur, inspecting and being seduced by each unique urban scenario. By magical locales of fairy tales: castles, endless walls, mammoth caverns, casino mirrors...

Jonathan Davies

Jane Tankard

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